RI health official on vaccine rollout: ‘We’re really at the mercy of the federal government’


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While the R.I. Department of Health expects to enter Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout by March, Dr. Philip Chan, a consultant medical director and infectious disease expert, says that the timeline is a moving target and depends on how quickly the state receives doses from the federal government.

Chan said right now, the state is receiving 14,000 doses per week, allowing them to vaccinate approximately 1.5% of the population with each shipment.

“It’s not a whole lot,” he said. “We’re really at the mercy of the federal government.”

As of Tuesday, Chan said the state has administered more than 36,000 doses, which he called a “good start.”

“We’re just reminding people that it’s going to take some time,” he said of the process. “I was reassured this past week that Rhode Island is in the top 10 states of people vaccinated per capita, so I think we are doing good, all things considered.”

Chan said when it comes to President-elect Joe Biden’s request for states to expedite the vaccine distribution process for residents ages 65 and older, as well as others deemed high risk for serious infection, he’s on board.

“I think this is actually a really good thing,” Chan said of the policy change, which would stop states from holding back the second dose of the two-dose shots. “It’s going to free up a lot more vaccine to the states and allow us to vaccinate a lot more people.”

While he’s optimistic that the federal government will speed up its vaccine shipments, Chan said he is aware of the unfortunate contrast in Rhode Island, with the state recently hitting 100,000 cases since the pandemic began.

“I think this has really been a terrible second wave, not just here in Rhode Island, but across the U.S.,” he said. “The trends we see are being mirrored elsewhere.”

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